Moments in Ink
Book 3.5 in the Montgomery Ink: Boulder Series
The Montgomery Ink saga continues with a bonus romance between two strangers on a path of healing that leads to something far more.
Zia Clarkson thought she found her happily ever after, not once, but twice. Her first love is now engaged, and her second love broke more than her heart. Heart and soul bruised; she’s not looking for a relationship. Ever. Especially not with the uptight Meredith Legend who stars in her fantasies.
They promised each other one night of passion. And when the sun rises, they’ll walk away—even if they’re both lying to themselves about why.
Moments in Ink is Book 3.5 in the Montgomery Ink: Boulder series
- Book 1: Wrapped in Ink
- Book 2: Sated in Ink
- Book 3: Embraced in Ink
- Book 3.5: Moments in Ink
- Book 4: Seduced in Ink
- Book 4.5: Captured in Ink
- Book 4.9: A Very Montgomery Christmas
The full series reading order is as follows:
Moments in Ink
I rolled my hips, my eyes closed, my breath coming in pants. The music slid along my skin, a caress of twilight and sensation.
I had my earphones in, my phone in my hand, and I let the music cascade over me as I moved to the beat, my hips shaking, my feet dancing across the hardwood of my floor. I spun in circles, pretending as if I had taken a dance class in the past year.
It didn’t matter, though, because I was alone. Nobody was here to watch me, to comment, or to trip me so I fell. I pushed those thoughts from my head, wanting only the peace, the happiness. I wiggled again, leaping and twirling around my living and dining rooms as if I hadn’t a care in the world, as if it were my job to dance and just live and…be.
I missed dancing. I missed teaching classes. I missed so much, but now I was back in America. I was back at home, and I was going to find some sense of normalcy even if I wasn’t quite sure what that would end up being. It didn’t matter right at this moment, as I was going to ignore the past and focus on the here and now—and who I was.
As the music drummed within me, I kept dancing and breathing. I probably looked like a fool to anyone looking in, but I was used to that. My hair flowed down my back, at least brushed from sleeping on it with only dry shampoo. And I had no makeup on my face, something a little odd for me since it was my job to wear it, after all. And yet, all I could think of was that I was a fresh start, and this was how I was going to live.
The fact that I wore only a pair of lace panties and a matching bra didn’t hurt things either. It didn’t offer the best support for the amount of jumping I was doing, but it didn’t matter. I felt no pain, no horrors or stress. This was my happiness, and I was going to dance around and simply be. The music kept flowing through me, and I shook my hips, danced on my toes, and I dreamed, mouthing along to the words and, before long, singing out loud. I didn’t have too bad of a voice when it came to singing, but there was no way I was on key with my current song.
I didn’t care since no one was around to listen. And that was just what I needed. I had relied on so many for too long. I’d needed to be surrounded by people, craved their understanding and acceptance. But no longer. I was Zia Clarkson, newly single, former YouTube makeup artist, and I was home. I was whole. I was healthy, and if any of that was a lie, I was working on it. Attempting to make it true.
None of my past mattered. All that did was my freedom. So, here I was, dancing in my newly bought house, one paid for with my own money—and perhaps some of the bank’s, as well, but still my credit—and I was free. Finally free. I danced around my kitchen, opened the back door, and kept dancing onto my porch. My house was propped up against a mountain, or really a foothill. A molehill as some people called it in Colorado. Mountains were everywhere along the western skyline of Colorado, something I had missed, and clearly had taken for granted when I was here before. While I had lived elsewhere, and others might say their mountains were the best, nothing was as beautiful as home. And perhaps it was a bit elitist when it came to our mountains, but I didn’t mind. This was my home, and I loved every ounce of it.
And because I was backed up to the range, nobody could see me from my porch, which was a good thing because I was still in that bra and panty set. I had neighbors on either side of me, but a tall fence and trees blocked me. The fact that I had even been able to get this home in the real estate climate we were currently in had been a testament to my luck and my shark-eyed realtor. I had paid handsomely for it, but I didn’t mind because it was all mine. My freedom and my peace. The home to the right of me held an older couple who were pretty quiet but had shown up with cookies and a bottle of champagne to welcome me to the neighborhood. I had smiled and invited them in, even though, knowing my luck, they were probably serial killers. They had been sweet, looked around my empty home since I hadn’t bought any furniture yet at the time. That had been quite interesting.
Then they left me alone. And I didn’t mind that. I needed space. Needed to breathe. I just needed to think and heal. No…that was enough of that. I kept my hips moving as I danced to the music, my thoughts trailing to places maybe I didn’t want to think about. On the other side of me was a new resident, as well, one I hadn’t met yet. I only knew that they had moved in possibly a day or two after I had, the moving truck taking over some of my driveway while unloading. I hadn’t minded since my vehicle had done the same to theirs, even if they hadn’t been there to witness it. The people that had previously owned each of our homes must have been friends, or perhaps family members. Maybe they were one of those sister wives because the backyards had a gate that separated them.
The gate was a dual-door one, so in essence, the backyard looked as if they could be wholly joined at any time. When I had been looking at the place, the realtor had mentioned it, and there hadn’t been a lock on either side. Now, however, there was. Honestly, I didn’t take offense that my new neighbor had put a lock on their side of the gate. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. I might put a lock on mine, as well, because even though I was friendly, and I used to like meeting new people, I had been burned more than once having my privacy invaded, and maybe I didn’t want people in my backyard.
A gust of wind blew over me, and I shivered. I should probably go inside before someone actually saw me. I turned around and cursed under my breath as the wind came back and slammed the back door.
“Great,” I muttered. I curled my arms around myself, made my way to my door, reaching for the doorknob. It didn’t budge, and my eyes widened.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”
I twisted again, but it didn’t move at all.
“I cannot be locked out in my underwear. I cannot be locked out in my underwear.” I looked at my phone and turned off the music. The wind picked up, my body chilling. I had been in stupid situations before, most of them my fault, but this had to be up there on the list of the worst. I could not be stuck outside, wearing only my lingerie.
Dear God, this could not be happening. I put my phone on the bench next to the door, used my left hand to put my palm on the door itself, and kept twisting the knob, hoping that somehow, I could force my way into my house. I had forgotten that the door locked on its own if I wasn’t careful. It was a security feature to keep me safe inside. Still, right then, I didn’t really care about that because I was locked outside in Colorado, with the sun going down—and practically naked. This wasn’t going to end well for anybody, but mostly me.
“Oh, come on. Come on. Please, don’t let this happen.”
“Everything okay over there?” a sultry voice asked from the other side of the trees. I closed my eyes and prayed that this was only a dream. Maybe it wasn’t happening at all. Perhaps I would wake up in my bed and not be standing outside practically naked.
“Uh, yeah. Just locked myself out of my house.”
“Oh, crap. Well, is there anything I can do? Do you need to use a phone?” I looked down at my cell and covered myself up as much as I could. Whoever was on the other side of the trees couldn’t see me, thankfully. And seeing as I had never met this person, whoever my neighbor was, I didn’t want this to be our introduction.
“No. Ironically, I have my phone in my hand. Well, now I do. It was on the bench.” There was a pause after my ramble.
“Okay. Do you know someone to call? I have a problem remembering most phone numbers these days, thanks to cell phones.”
“Well, it’s my mobile, so I have the numbers.” More silence. “But thank you. Seriously.”
“No problem. Guess I’m not thinking quite right. Long day.” I heard a shuffle and leaves under feet. I searched my porch for a blanket.
Damn it, I would have to leave a throw under that bench from now on, for the next time I got caught in my bra and panties.
“I’m fine. You don’t have to come over here.” But I was too late. A woman with short, blond hair, a fade on one side with it long on the other, walked towards the gate that separated our two lawns. She wore suit pants and an open-collared shirt, her sleeves rolled up to her elbows. It looked as if she had just gotten off work and was about to change for the day. She gave me a look, her eyes alight in the dimming sunlight, her mouth parted. Her gaze raked over me, and if I hadn’t already been covered in goose flesh from the cold, I would’ve pebbled even more. As it was, my breasts felt heavy, and my nipples tightened. Damn boobs, they ran everything. Boobs always did.
Her gorgeous eyes widened at the sight of me, and thankfully, she didn’t run. “Oh, hi.”
“Hi. This is weird.”
“Yeah. I suppose it is.” The woman chewed her very sexy lip. “One second.” She practically ran to the other side of the trees where her door was, and I closed my eyes and prayed that this would end, but I really didn’t think it would. “I uh, had my suit jacket on my porch since I recently took it off.”
“Oh. Thanks. I just thought that I should keep a blanket out here.” I made my way to the gate, trying to act as if this weren’t one of the most embarrassing times of my life. I rolled my shoulders back, even though I had my phone clutched in my hand, my arm barely covering my breasts. Considering that my lace underwear happened to be a thong, when I turned away from her, she would see far more of me than I had planned on anyone seeing for a very long time. “Well, hi. I’m Zia.”
The woman handed over her suit jacket, a single, very sexily shaped brow raised. “Meredith.”
I took the jacket, slid it over my shoulders, and pulled it closed as tightly as I could even though it couldn’t quite fit over my breasts. Meredith had curves, plenty, but her shoulders were broader than mine, probably because it looked like she lifted weights and was muscular. I was a little curvier, but Meredith’s breasts looked firm and tight in her crisp, white shirt. And her thighs? Damn, she must be good at squats. I needed to stop checking her out. “Anyway, hi.”
“Yeah. Hi. You can put the jacket back on the gate when you’re done with it, and I’ll leave you be.” And then the other woman, as sexy as she was, turned on her heel and left me standing alone in her jacket, locked outside my home.
I had said that I could take care of it, and I would. Someone else had my key for emergencies, and this was definitely an emergency. I really wished I wasn’t so embarrassing all the time. I did my best not to run, but I moved quickly back to my porch, hiding behind the bushes as I maneuvered my phone to call for help. Bristol answered on the first ring. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“Why would you immediately think something was wrong?” I asked, my voice a little high-pitched. The door from Meredith’s house closed, and I was glad that it seemed as if she had gone inside and wasn’t about to hear my embarrassing moments increase.
“You said you were taking the whole night off and didn’t want to talk to anybody and just needed time, remember? I asked you to dinner, and then you got this far-away look in your eyes and said you needed time. But now you’re calling me. What’s wrong?”
Bristol was my ex, the first woman—the first person, for that matter—that I had ever loved. Now, she was engaged to her best friend, and the two of them were perfect for each other. I wasn’t jealous that Marcus had Bristol because I was over that love, or at least it had molded into a friendship that I would never take for granted again.
I was jealous that she had found her happily ever after, and I was in the process of forgetting to look for mine because I had fallen in love again after Bristol. But never again. I couldn’t.
“I’m fine. I’m just locked outside of my house on my porch.”
“Crap. Okay, we’ll come bring the key. That stupid lock, right?”
“What else is wrong?” she asked. I could hear Marcus’s deep voice rumbling on the other side of the phone.
“Well, I met my neighbor.”
“Oh, are they nice?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, considering I was in a bra and panties and dancing on my porch when I realized that I’d locked myself out of the house. Now, I’m cold and wearing her suit jacket.” There was enough silence on the line that it practically screamed at me, but I wanted to hide under my non-existent blanket.
“Was she hot?” Bristol asked. I burst out laughing, and I could hear Marcus grumbling again.
“Can you please just come and help me? And then I will not ask for help again because I can do this. I can do this whole being-on-my-own thing.”
“Of course, you can. You are strong, independent, and you always have been. You are a light in our lives, Zia, and I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I whispered, knowing that my love was far different than it had been even a year ago when it came to Bristol. And the fact that she could say those words to me in front of the love of her life told me that the dynamics of our relationship had changed, and for the better.
“We’re on our way,” Marcus said into the phone.
“Hey there,” I said. “Sorry about this.”
“Never be sorry. We’re here for you.”
“You are too perfect to be real sometimes,” I said, being truthful. “I just figured that, of course, I would meet my new neighbor while I was dancing in my underwear.”
“Well, it could be worse. You could be naked,” Marcus said. I heard the car starting in the background.
“You have not seen these panties,” I said. “I’m pretty much there already.” Marcus barked out a laugh, and I heard the phone switch to speakerphone in their car.
“Stop trying to woo my fiancé,” Bristol joked.
I snorted. “I’m just saying. You already have a triad in the family. We could make a great threesome,” I said, clearly joking. It was a jest we had made more than once, and I liked that they didn’t take me seriously. After all, I wasn’t anywhere near serious in that. Simply because Bristol’s mom loved me and had wanted me to be a part of the family, didn’t mean I was going to marry a Montgomery. I liked being part of the extended family in the way that I was.
“You keep saying that,” Marcus began. “And one day, you’re going to end up married to both of us, and you won’t know what to do.”
“That is true. I am a bit much for anybody.” I was only teasing, but the others were silent enough that I was afraid I had said something wrong. “You are perfect in every way. Well, practically perfect in every way if we’re going for the pure Mary Poppins spirit,” Bristol said with a laugh.
“I’m nowhere near perfect,” I said.
“None of us are,” Marcus began, his tone serious. “But that’s what makes us human. Now, are you warm enough?”
“I guess,” I said, my teeth chattering. “But you’re on your way, right?”
“We’re maybe thirty seconds away. Make sure you’re safe. We’re coming for you.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, closing my eyes as tears stung the backs of them.
“Always,” Bristol whispered.
I let out a shuddering breath, the sound of their car pulling into my driveway the sweetest music to my ears. I was trying to figure out how to be the Zia I needed to be after breaking part of myself with my poor decisions. And now, here I was, meeting my new neighbor in ways that I shouldn’t, and even having sexy images of that person in my mind. I shouldn’t have even let myself check her out. I didn’t know if Meredith liked women. And I didn’t need to be with anyone else. I just needed to remember who I was.
I was Zia Clarkson, a girly girl who was finally home. As Bristol opened the door with a smile on her face, I wrapped my arms around her and sank into her hold. Marcus was there too, wrapping his arms around us both, and I inhaled their scents, feeling like I was home.
I might not have found my happily ever after with Bristol, but I had found a friendship that I would do my best to never walk away from again. Because I still didn’t know exactly who Zia Clarkson was, even if I did my best to put as many labels on myself as I could. Now, I needed to figure out the next step, and remember that I was here to heal, to breathe, and not stand outside in my underwear making stupid decisions, one right after the other.